7 Symptoms of Meningitis

Meningitis is a serious illness that causes the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord to swell. Viral infections are the cause of most cases, but there are also bacterial and fungal causes. Certain cases resolve themselves in a few weeks without any treatment while others can be life-threatening. These more serious cases are typically caused by a bacterial infection and will need emergency treatment with antibiotics.

Bacteria can travel to the brain and spinal cord via the bloodstream, causing meningitis. Bacterial meningitis can also occur via a direct route to the meninges (the membrane surrounding the brain and spinal cord). The bacteria may be able to enter the body via the ear or sinuses, a skull fracture, or after a surgery.

There are several different bacteria that can result in meningitis. Streptococcus pneumoniae is the most common culprit of the bacterial type in the United States. It usually causes pneumonia or ear and sinus infections. It is vaccine preventable.

Complications from meningitis can be life-threatening. It can cause permanent brain damage due to seizures. Treatment for bacterial cases includes intravenous antibiotics, corticosteroids to reduce inflammation, Tylenol, anticonvulsants to reduce seizure activity, oxygen, fluids, and sedation. It is important to note the signs and symptoms so that treatment can begin immediately if a bacterial case is suspected.

1. Back Pain

A stiff back accompanied by pain and other symptoms is a sign of infection. When the membrane around the spinal cord becomes infected, it gets irritated and inflamed. This can, in turn, inflame the nerves, causing stiffness and pain. This pain and stiffness prevents movement in certain directions. The pain felt is generally different than just being sore. It will limit movement, particularly when trying to touch the chin to the chest. Back pain may occur later than other symptoms or it may be one of the first symptoms. Anytime back pain or stiffness occurs in the presence of other signs like a neck pain or red rashes, a doctor should assess the patient.